upheimand its Annihilation
Book Pages 409 - 421
DR . ANTJE KÖHLERSCHMIDT
Cilly Obernauer, née Friedberger, and Max Obernauer.
The children of Israel and Paulina Obernauer attended the Jewish primary school, and in 1896, the oldest sons, Hugo and Max, were both listed as pupils of the upper and lower grades respectively of the newly founded Latin and Junior High School. Traditionally, education played an important role in Jewish families and the family of cattle trader Israel Obernauer was no exception. Of the first 43 students of the 1896/97 school year, 14 were Jewish, which is a share of 32 % and was considerably higher than the share of Jews in the total population of Laupheim, which was at approximately 10 %. Upon completion of his schooling, Max Obernauer followed his father and became a livestock trader.On day four after the 1914 declaration of the mobilization, Max Obernauer was enlisted to the Bavarian Medical Corps No. 3 in Munich, and was in service as a medical orderly in many battles. By his own account, these included the battles of Bacard, Sarburg, Lyon, Munster Alsace, Somme, Muldau, St. Quentin, Compiegne, and Hammel. On Dec. 3, 1918 he returned from war, decorated with the Iron Cross 2nd Class and the Cross of Merit. In the last year of the war, on Jan. 15, 1918, Max Obernauer married his 23-year-old cousin Cilly Friedberger. She was the daughter of Markus and Therese Friedberger, née Landauer, and was also born and raised in Laupheim. There is a reference to her parents in this book. Seven months after their marriage, on Aug. 20, 1918, Hugo Obernauer was born in Laupheim. He was named after his father’s older brother who was killed in action in 1915 in Russia. Their second son, Emil was born in Laupheim on March 15, 1920.
Cattle trade was the livelihood of the family. When it came to horse purchasing and selling, Max Obernauer cooperated with his Jewish partner, Emil Kahn, who provided the horse stables at his house in Kapellenstrasse 64. Both were equal partners running a General Partnership since 1923. Accordingly, both of their names were displayed on their advertisements. In 1929, 17 out of the 24 cattle traders in Laupheim were Jews. Traditionally, livestock trade was a domain of Jewish traders in Upper Swabia and the alpine foreland that was handed over in the families from generation to generation. The long-term business relationships between Jewish cattle traders and the mostly Catholic country people had proven to be successful. In addition to the horse-trading cooperation with Emil Kahn, Max Obernauer also traded cows and calves independently, as illustrated in the advertisement from the Laupheimer Verkündiger dated December 7, 1925. The business address is given as Ulmer Strasse 52, which was the property of his uncle, Markus Friedberger, who provided the cowshed, and probably handed over his own business to Max Obernauer. However, according to the “Address and business manual for the district communities of Laupheim”, the Obernauer family already lived in a house that Max Obernauer had built near the town train station. The pictures below illustrate the start of Laupheim’s expansion in the north-west. The representative building leads to the assumption that Max Obernauer’s livestock business must have been quite successful. However, he took out credit loans from the Israelite parish community, Carl Laemmle from New York, and from the Frankfurt-based lawyer Dr. Neander Fromm to finance the house, which has been a common practice when building and purchasing real estate up until today.
“Laupheimer Verkündiger”, dated Jan. 1, 1924 and Dec. 7, 1925
Max Obernauer was probably away on business a lot, so domestic affairs were managed by his wife. Accordingly, “Mrs. Max Obernauer” offered a well-paid housekeeping job for a 20 to 25-year-old female in 1923. Whether or not this job offer had a good response is unknown.
Haus Obernauer, Industriestrasse 15, in approx. 1925.
(Photo: Archive Theo Miller)
Property today: well preserved in its original style. (Photo: Karl Neidlinger)
Death of Pauline Obernauer, née Friedberger
Max Obernauer’s father, Israel Obernauer, already passed away in 1901 following typhoid fever, which he had caught on a business trip. His widow, Pauline Obernauer, née Friedberger, stayed in their house in Kappellenstrasse 56. There is only little information about Pauline. Her brother Markus Friedberger and her sisters Mathilde Bach and Cilly Einstein also lived in Laupheim with their families. The family picture is shown in the chapter for Markus Friedberger and family. Her daughter Therese Eppstein moved away from Laupheim, but her three sons Max, Wilhelm, and Hermann Obernauer and their families stayed in town, keeping up ties with Pauline, so that she could carry on living closely integrated with her relatives and the Jewish community. She passed away on Oct. 15, 1925 at the age of 64, following a brief and serious illness.
Pauline Obernauer, née Friedberger, in approx. 1920.
(Photo: from the estate of John Bergmann)
The obituary specifically acknowledges the housekeeper, Katharina Kley, for her “dedicated and loving care”. Kley was in housekeeping service at the Max Obernauer family until the mid-1930s. Such long-term employment of Christian staff in Jewish households was quite typical in Laupheim.
Childhood and youth of Hugo and Emil Obernauer
Max and Cilly Obernauer’s two children grew up in a close family environment that also included relatives from their father’s and mother’s side. Like all children of the Jewish community in Laupheim, they attended the Jewish elementary school in Radstrasse, where Hermann Einstein was the teacher in the late 20s. A picture dated Feb. 21, 1929, shows a group of 12 pupils of the Jewish elementary school, all in costumes, ready to celebrating the Purim festival. Emil and Hugo Obernauer are clearly visible on the very left and right respectively.
(Photos: Archive Günther Raff)
The annual summer festival “Kinder- und Heimatfest” is still a local highlight today, and in the twenties and early thirties of the last century it was also highly popular among the townspeople including the old and the young, Christians and Jews alike. Accordingly, the two Obenauer boys were big fans of the festival. This holds particularly true for Hugo, who picked exactly the festival date in 1984 for a visit to his birth town Laupheim, 47 years after his emigration to Argentina. In 1930, when he was 10-years-old, he actively participated in the festival parade as one of the locally well-known “Seven Swabians”. The picture shows him wearing a cap in the second row at the spear behind the rabbit that was chased by the group. In a letter to Rita Stetter, née Mueller, dated July 15, 1982, he recalls as follows:
“Sweet memories came to my mind when I was reading the festival program. Once I won the first prize in a crossbow-shooting competition and it was a wonderful pocketknife with a mother-of-pearl handle and a sticker with the initials A. H. on it (editor’s note: Adolf Hitler). Even Wilhelm Tell couldn’t have been prouder of it! This must have been in 1933, which was my last school year in Laupheim. After that I started my apprenticeship in Ulm . . . On Langestrasse 20 there was a department store named “Volksbedarf” (Goods for People’s Needs). There, I was trained for three years in window dressing, and I kept this job until I emigrated.”
His childhood memories were the emotional basis for his close relation to Laupheim, which he described in a letter to Rita Stetter, dated Feb. 5, 1981:
“The longer I am away from ‘home’, the more I am longing for my beloved Laupheim.”
Reminiscing, he recalls the times when he was sleigh-riding on the local hill, Bronner Berg, together with his friends from Ulmerstasse, Eugen and Hugo Held, and Anton Beck, or collecting wood for the traditional end-of-winter fire “Facklefeuer” (torch fire) in March, and many things more, before he continues:
“Our second home back then, however, was the soccer arena of Olympia Laupheim, and not only in the summertime. I can hardly believe that there were ever more enthusiastic fans in Laupheim than us. No distance was too far for us when it came to accompanying our team by bike to away matches. It didn’t matter if these matches took place in Ehingen, Blaubeuren, or Munderkingen. Sometimes when our team won, we were allowed to go home together with them on the bus. Rudolf Rechtsteiner was the goalkeeper. On Mondays, the Laupheimer Verkündiger reported on the matches from the past weekend. We were part of the last youth team of the Laupheim soccer club; you know I am referring to the time before 1933. You may imagine that under these circumstances my school performance was not the best, which prompted our teacher, Mr. Zepf to specifically emphasize the first vocal of my last name ‘O’ many times when addressing me.”
It was also the shared identity and close relationships between the Christian and Jewish children that generally allowed for a carefree and easy-going childhood. So it was not unusual at all that Hugo Obernauer looked forward to Christmas every year.
“This was the highlight of the year for us kids. Of course, I was invited to the Helds’ every year, and I sang the Christmas songs with great fervor, just like them. And there was always a plate for me with the typical Swabian Christmas cookies like “Springerle” or “Zimtsterne”. This was also the time when we could cast tin soldiers, or play with steam engines that were fueled by spirit.”
(Letter from Hugo Obernauer to Rita Stetter, née Mueller, dated Feb. 5, 1981)
The time after 1933
After Adolf Hitler‘s appointment as Reich Chancellor the National Socialists quickly seized power and also in Laupheim, which had been dominated by the Catholic Centre Party up to then, political change was imminent. Hugo Obernauer reported that students of the secondary school had to keep a so-called national notebook, in which all famous Germans along with their deeds or speeches from the past were filed. He recalled entries for Otto von Bismarck, Albert Leo Schlageter, the commander of the U 9 submarine in World War I, and various speeches by Hindenburg and Adolf Hitler. In 1934, Hugo Obernauer passed his school exams and, as mentioned before, started a vocational training and continued as a professional window dresser at the “Volksbedarf” department store in Ulm until emigrating in 1937.
His brother Emil Obernauer started job training at the Bergmann hair factory. Experiencing the increasing discrimination against Jewish citizens must have been particularly painful for the Obernauer brothers as they grew up perfectly integrated with their many Christian friends and classmates. It was to a large extent due to the Reich Citizenship Law and the Protection Law of German Blood and Honor', both dictated by the Nazis in 1935, that the Obernauer family started preparations for emigration. But the threat was even more concrete for the young men in Laupheim, as Hugo Obernauer stated in a letter dated November 21, 1985 to Theo Miller in Laupheim:
“Finally, I’d like to tell you about an incident that happened in the winter of 1936/37. As you know, our house was the last on Industriestrasse next to the Scheffold Saw Mill. Next to the mill there was a meadow that belonged to the Bertele butchery. You also know that every day I came home from Ulm at approximately 9 pm. One evening, while having a sparse supper at home, I heard some noise on our shutters coming from iced clumps of dirt. Without further ado I put out the lights, got my Diana air gun and slipped through a gap in our picket fence where one fence panel was missing. I ran attack against the presumed enemy, who fled head over heels, possibly for the first time since Hitler’s coming to power. As the moon was shining bright, I was able to determine that the intruders were members of the Hitler Youth in Laupheim. I had been fortunate to fool them, but the next day they were waiting for me at the Laupheim train station with a sound beating for shooting at Germans. But nobody filed a complaint against me, which was somehow meaningful.”
In August 1937 Hugo and Emil Obernauer finally left their home to escape to Argentina. However, their parents first stayed in Laupheim, where particularly Max Obernauer had to face more and more restrictions imposed by the Nazis. Running his horse and cattle trading business became more and more difficult until it finally came to a halt in 1939. In this context, please refer to the article about Emil Kahn, which provides more details about these restraints.
When SA troops from Ulm set fire to the Laupheim synagogue on “Crystal Night”, November 9/10, 1938, thirty Jewish male citizens from Laupheim were forced out of their houses and dragged to the scene to witness the destruction of their house of worship. Max and his younger brothers Hermann and Wilhelm were among them. According to fire fighter Wendelin Ganser, they were brought to the market hall where SA members forced them to do squats and other physical exercises. After that, they were arrested in the district court prison. 17 of the arrested people were then brought to the Dachau concentration camp. The first of them returned to Laupheim at the end of November, the last only in February 1939. They had been released under the condition not to disclose any facts about their imprisonment, to sell their properties, and leave Germany. Sigmund Laupheimer was beaten to death in the Dachau concentration camp. Max Obernauer was released on Dec. 17, 1938.
During his detention, precisely on Nov. 30, 1938, there were house searches at the homes of the imprisoned Jewish citizens, all aimed at closely inspecting and evaluating their possessions. This, of course, was another threat that must have been particularly frightening for the wives and children who were left alone during that time. Those affected were the houses of Edwin, Theodor and Max Bergmann, Hermann Sternschein, teacher Mr. Säbel, Emil Kahn, Max Einstein, Siegfried Kurz, Max Einstein, Benno Nördlinger and Max Obernauer. (Town archive F 7613)
The fact that in June 1939 Jewish cattle traders were no longer allowed to participate in the fortnightly Laupheim cattle market, and being forced to do their business exclusively from home, practically meant that they were dismissed from their occupation.
Exactly one year after the Crystal Night on Nov. 9/10, 1938, 13 male Jewish citizens from Laupheim – including Max Obernauer – were arrested again and taken into custody for several days in the district court jail. For the Jewish citizens still remaining in Laupheim it became ever more urgent to leave the country. But the hurdles were extremely high. This required not only numerous approvals by the Nazi authorities, but also an entry permit from the receiving country. Furthermore, it was imperative to obtain a boarding pass for the ship passage. Cilly and Max Obernauer went to great lengths in order to emigrate to their sons in Argentina, which they finally achieved at the end of 1940. In February 1940 they sold their house in Industriestrasse 15, including yard and plot number 2613/1 for 15 000 Reichsmark to the sisters Elise and Maria Schick. In 1946, the purchase price was assessed as being in range by the real estate agent Josef Benz from Laupheim, who was in charge of evaluating the appropriateness of prices in all real estate sales of Jewish citizens from Laupheim during the Nazi regime.
The photos of Cilly and Max Obernauer (at the beginning of this chapter) were found during research in the State Archive Sigmaringen and the District Archive Biberach. The picture of Cilly Obernauer from the State Archive Sigmaringen originates from her passport, whereas Max Obernauer’s picture from the District Archive Biberach comes from a trade license that was confiscated in 1938.
The life of the emigrants in Argentina
When the Obernauer family reunited in Argentina, they decided to set up a farming business, starting with cattle breeding. They only owned a few cows, and initially they had to make a living from the sparse proceeds from selling the milk in the near village. There, Hugo Obernauer met his future wife Susann in 1947. She had also emigrated from Germany, where her father ran a law firm in Berlin as a lawyer and notary public before 1933. Hugo and Susann married in Argentina, and in 1950 their son Eduardo was born. He was followed by their daughter Alicia three years later. After Max Obernauer’s death in 1952 Hugo Obernauer started to grow raspberries. In a letter to Rita Stetter, née Mueller, dated April 5, 1981, he described in detail his life in Latin America:
“Now, I’d like to tell you a bit about here, as I feel that you’re quite interested about it. Argentina is a Spanish speaking country, and Choele Choel is located in the Province of Rio Negro, exactly 1000 kilometers from the capital Buenos Aires. The estate I live on lies on an island with a diameter of 30 kilometers that is surrounded by two arms of the Rio Negro. The next village is only about 3 kilometers away from my house. I am mainly producing raspberries and walnuts, with raspberries going to the liqueur and jam factories in the capital. In addition, we grow cherries, apricots, apples, pears, plums, tomato, sweet corn, potato, and last, but not least, ‘Träuble' (currants). As you can imagine, you never get the chance to be bored in this business. But believe it or not, despite being 63, I do almost all the work alone, except for the harvesting. I have to admit that I am equipped with the most modern machines. A large-scale irrigation program initiated by our government makes sure that there is always the required amount of moisture for the plants. But what makes me particularly proud, are my two children. My son Eduardo (31), called ‘Bubele’, is chief gynecologist at a big hospital in Buenos Aires, and my daughter Alicia (28), called ‘Liesele’, is a biochemist in the same city.”
His brother Emil Obernauer ran his own farm in the neighborhood, was also married, and had children himself. When Emil’s oldest son died of a stroke in 1987, it was a severe blow for him, also knowing that he himself suffered from heart problems.
Hugo and Emil’s mother, Cilly Obernauer, née Friedberger, had the privilege of leading a long life. She passed away at the age of 89 in Buenos Aires in 1984.
Contact with Laupheim
There have already been several excerpts from letters written by Hugo Obernauer, which are now to be brought into context. His grandniece, Audrey Obernauer, who he had not known about for a long time, the granddaughter of Hermann Obernauer, contacted him in the early 80s of the last century and provided him with the address of Rita Mueller, who was a contender for divisional director at the Laupheim authorities at that time, and supported Audrey during her Laupheim visit in July 1978. A close friendship evolved from this encounter which was then “passed down” through the family. Hugo Obernauer contacted her by mail, and Rita Mueller, was more than happy to respond from Laupheim. Possibly, this communication also contributed to his wish to see his hometown again.
After long preparations, the time finally came in 1984. Hugo and Susann Obernauer travelled to Germany and came to Laupheim exactly at the time of the summer festival, of which Hugo had been an enthusiastic fan in his childhood. Otmar Schick, then mayor in Laupheim, provided them with a warm welcome. After his return to Argentina, Hugo Obernauer acknowledged this in a notable thank-you letter that is printed out below. In addition to attending various events during the summer festival 1984, he also visited the Jewish cemetery in Laupheim every day, where many of his ancestors had been buried and where the war memorial, which had been designed by Friedrich Adler, listed his uncle Hugo Obernauer.
After 47 years I have seen high mountains and green valleys, wide rivers, dark forests, flowers of all colors, the "Swabian Sea", huge department stores and many things more, and I'd like to state quite frankly that the place I liked most is your and my Laupheim.
The 'folkloric evening' was really touching, as you yourself experienced. The festival parade was unforgettable, and the fireworks in the evening were impressive. But what made my stay at my place of birth most beautiful was the get-together with beloved citizens in the beer tent in the late evening.
Can you imagine how you can feel so drunk without having touched a single drop of alcohol? Being together with Ludwig Beck and his wife, and with Rita Mueller and her mother from Bihlafingen I felt like I had never been away from Laupheim and as if all time in between had never existed. And all this came to me without big words. We sang songs of home and held hands like little kids.
Now it's time again to "schaffa, schaffa, spara, spara" (translator’s note: continuously work and save money), so that hopefully one day, I'll be lucky to attend the Heimatfest (summer festival) one more time before this Swabian poem comes to a literary end. I feel I could continue writing this letter much longer, but for today I'd like to leave it at this.
Many thanks to you, dear Mr. Schick, for all you offered to me. Please find enclosed a picture postcard with a view of Laupheim from the twenties, which I’d like you to forward to Mr. Theo Miller.
During his visit, he also attended the slide show featuring old pictures and views of Laupheim, which was organized by Mr. Theo Miller. Hugo Obernauer handed the passionate collector of old pictures his business card, stating that he still kept an old picture postcard of Ulmerstrasse, which he sent to him by mail upon his return to Argentina. This initial encounter evolved into a mail correspondence with a bundle of letters and a close friendship until Hugo Obernauer’s death in 1986. Theo Miller quenched Hugo Obernauer‘s thirst for news about Laupheim, answered questions, sent him the annual publications of the local club for town improvement, as well as a copy of an old picture of the Olympia Laupheim soccer team featuring Hugo Obernauer. In this context, Theo Miller also confessed to his mail partner that he had been a member of the SS as a young man and that his father had purchased the Bergmann hair factory. Hugo Obernauer remained forgiving, having stated already before in a more generic sense: “Apart from that I’d like to stick to my principle when it comes to the twelve years of dictatorship and tyranny, which is: “Always remember, but never speak about it.” It is much nicer to think about the time when we were standing as equals beneath our neighbor’s Christmas tree . . .” It may seem as if he wanted to suppress all bad memories of that time, but obviously this was his way of carrying on living. Hugo Obenauer already planned another trip to Laupheim for 1987, but in early 1986 he suffered a heart attack and died on July 10, 1986 in Choele Choel, Argentina. In 1987, his son Eduardo visited Laupheim in lieu of Hugo Obernauer. In 1988, Emil Obernauer and his wife Magdalena followed an invitation of the Laupheim authorities to all former Jewish citizens of Laupheim. Hugo Obernauer’s widow, Susann, leased the property in Choele Choel and moved to her children in Buenos Aires. There, at the age of 57, she started a career as a baby sitter for her two-year-old grandson, blond and blue-eyed, who for her was the image of his grandfather Hugo.
Theo Miller remembers his friend Hugo Obernauer,
whenever he looks at the picture postcard.
(Photo: Elisabeth Ligenza – „Schwäbische Zeitung“, dated August 2, 2005)
Address and business manual for the district communities of Laupheim. Munich 1925. Photo archive: Theo Miller, Laupheim.
Photo archive: Guenter Raff, Laupheim.
Hecht, Cornelia; Köhlerschmidt, Antje: The deportation of the Jews from Laupheim. Laupheim 2004. Hüttenmeister, Nathanja: The Jewish Cemetery Laupheim. Laupheim 1998.
District archive Biberach F 7613 - 3a. Laupheimer Verkündiger 1923–1925.
Neidlinger, Karl: 100 Years of Secondary School. 1896 - 1996. Laupheim 1996. Schwäbische Zeitung dated August 2, 2005.
State archive Sigmaringen Wü 65/18 T 4 and T 5. Town archive Laupheim FL 9811–9899.
Registry Laupheim, Family register volume V.
Weil Jonas: List of veterans from the Israelite community Laupheim, Laupheim 1919.